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Chillin' with the Splinter
Rick Reilly
June 30, 2003
Hung out with Ted Williams the other day. Pretty cool.
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June 30, 2003

Chillin' With The Splinter

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Hung out with Ted Williams the other day. Pretty cool.

He's spending his time in a one-story cement building in a warehouse district next to the Scottsdale, Ariz., airport, frozen, upside down, waiting for science to bring him back from the dead.

"Uh, we don't say 'dead,' " says the voluptuous redhead giving the tour here at Alcor Life Extension Foundation, America's largest cryonics company. "We say 'the end of his first life cycle.' "

On the wall are photos of people hoping for a mulligan, with little plaques underneath that read, for example, FIRST LIFE CYCLE: 1925-1997. SECOND LIFE CYCLE: 1997-___. But there are no pictures of Teddy Ballgame hitting for any cycle.

"We cannot verify if Mr. Williams is with us or not," says a little bearded doctor named Jerry Lender, a former Tennessee psychiatrist who is the head of Alcor and looks exactly like the late poet Allen Ginsberg. "We protect the anonymity of all patients."

O.K., the greatest hitter who ever lived is here, according to his daughter, Bobby-Jo Ferrell, and the former curator of the Ted Williams Museum, Buzz Hamon. They're still upset that when Williams didn't die of heart failure a year ago next week, at 83, he was packed in a crate of ice and flown to Alcor, where Lemler and his staff drilled holes in his skull to insert temperature probes (that's gonna hurt later on) and started freezing him—

"Not 'freezing,' " interjects Lemler. "We put you in a glasslike matrix." O.K., they put him in "a glasslike matrix," meaning they replaced more than 60% of the water in his cells with a kind of human antifreeze so his tissue became as rigid as glass (but didn't actually freeze) while they gradually dropped his body temperature to -196� C. Some old sportswriters will tell you that is just a little warmer than Williams was with them. From there, they carted him into a kind of stainless-steel morgue—

"Please," says Lemler, "we call it the 'patient care bay.' We house 58 residents in our patient care bay." O.K, into the "patient care bay" with the rest of the "residents," who were having another in a string of very quiet days. Anyway, they tucked him in a waterproof sleeping bag, opened up one of the 10-foot-tall stainless-steel cylindrical tanks filled with liquid nitrogen and lowered him in. There are seven of these babies, and they look like giant thermoses, except they burp and hiss with the liquid nitrogen, which keeps Williams a Boston Blue Sox. Friends and relatives lay flowers at the base of the tanks, which makes the whole place look like a cemetery built by KitchenAid.

What's even creepier is that they hang the bodies upside down—"in case there's ever a leak, the brain would be the last exposed," explains Lemler. How's that for irony? Williams, one of the greatest big-game fishermen ever, is hanging upside down until his next life cycle begins. Somewhere a whole lot of marlin are giggling.

Worse, the Hall of Famer shares his tank here at Coolerstown with at least two other bodies and probably eight severed heads—

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